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The Gulag Archipelago 1918–1956

(The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 #1-7)

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  18,848 ratings  ·  1,138 reviews
Drawing on his own incarceration and exile, as well as on evidence from more than 200 fellow prisoners and Soviet archives, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn reveals the entire apparatus of Soviet repression—the state within the state that ruled all-powerfully. Through truly Shakespearean portraits of its victims—men, women, and children—we encounter secret police operations, labo ...more
Paperback, Abridged Edition, 472 pages
Published February 1st 2002 by HarperCollins (first published 1973)
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Joy Schoenberger In the author's own words, "I gratefully accepted Professor Ericson's suggestion to create a one-volume abridgement of my three-volume work, The Gulag…moreIn the author's own words, "I gratefully accepted Professor Ericson's suggestion to create a one-volume abridgement of my three-volume work, The Gulag Archipelago, in order to facilitate its reading for those who do not have much time in this hectic century of ours."

The abridged version is still a monumental work, and well worth reading in its own right. I don't think it is any kind of insult to the author to read this edition. The only insult would be to hold what Solzhenitsyn called "this fallacious belief: 'It would not be the same here; here such things are impossible.'" It is better to learn the lessons than not, whither they come from.(less)
Elie This is the abridged version. The full works is in several volumes as you said, which is still very interesting if you have the time to read. Otherwis…moreThis is the abridged version. The full works is in several volumes as you said, which is still very interesting if you have the time to read. Otherwise this abridged version is quiet exhaustive and will give you most of what you need to know, only bypassing the less critical sections. It is still 472 pages.(less)

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Dec 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Solzhenitsyn systematically goes through the horrors of the Soviet slave labour camps, one of the blackest chapters in world history. I read this book as a teenager, not long after it came out, and I was appalled that my parents had presented the Soviet Union as anything other than a monstrosity. For some reason, leftist people wouldn't properly admit it for a long time. I still can't quite understand why.

If you feel any shadow of sympathy for Soviet Russia, read Solzhenitsyn and you will be cu
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can not in clear conscience say that I really like a book about Soviet Gulags. To be honest, I repeatedly reached my limit of emotional energy. The story of any one of the 20 million people directly affected would have more impact.

Oh, right. He tried that first, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. In a lot of ways, this a response to critics and deniers of his earlier book.
Mike (the Paladin)
Nov 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I read this in 1974 in a bad situation in my life. This put "a bad situation" in America in a totally new light. I wish more Americans would listen and have listened to Solzhenitsyn.

Update: I don't know how many of you have followed the...discussion that has been going on here but it inspired me to extend this review a little. The above is the original review in which I simply urged people to read the book for themselves as it has much to say and is applicable in many ways to events happening no
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
I began ploughing through this book in the dreary and climacteric era of my workplace coming of age.

A quickly-promoted amateur in a world of pros, I was fast falling out of my depth - and the deft irony of this book’s prose was no match for my witlessness.

This book probably acted as one of its precipitants. Who knows?

But, three years later, recuperating from the last of my fatal plummets, I met Fred.

Fred was a disproportionately effusive returner of favours, like me. And, like me, he was bipo
Mar 12, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everybody
Shelves: nonfiction
Given its historical importance, I fully expected that The Gulag Archipelago would be a lofty read. What I didn't expect was that it works so well as a story. Instead of being a straight history book, Gulag lies somewhere between journalism and history, and Solzhenitsyn's narrative voice is familiar and engaging. The book feels less like a history lesson, and more like a conversation with a good friend who knows how to put together and express an interesting, important, heartbreaking, and unforg ...more
One of my all time favorites.

One of the accounts from the book that still makes me laugh (you read that right, though I shouldn't really) is:

A political meeting was going on with about 1000 - 2000 people present in the hall somewhere in USSR (I can't recall the exact location and time of the event). Now the desiderata for survival in Stalin era was that everyone should stand up and clap their hands furiously at the mention of his name, and you don't want to be the one to stop clapping first. Thi
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: russian
“Each of us is a center of the Universe, and that Universe is shattered when they hiss at you: “You are under arrest.” So Solzhenitsyn’s journey into the gulag began in 1945 where he spent eight years. This is a personal history by a survivor of the false arrest, the long prison sentence, the brutal dehumanizing treatment that sends shivers up the spine. Solzhenitsyn also reports the experiences of many others. Each report is heartfelt. Solzhenitsyn changed history by once and for all underminin ...more
Nov 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: russian-history
A bleak and unremittingly grim account of the gulags between 1918 and 1956, narrative history rather than Solzhenitsyn’s usual literary voice. There are occasional flashes of hope and redemption, but these are few.
Solzhenitsyn provides a historical account reasoning through the state’s decision-making process and covering all the process of prison and exile from arrest to release (not so many reached release). There are detailed descriptions of the food, interrogations, torture, sanitary arrang
Oct 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is a wonderful book, but like many Russian authors, Solzhenitsyn goes on too long too often and all the excess verbiage takes away rather than adds to the enjoyment and understanding of the book. However this does not mean that some idiot librarian has the right to decide that all seven (I think it was 7) volumes of the book should be divided willy-nilly into just three volumes. So "The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, Books III-IV" has all sorts of vol ...more
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I view people that cling to the tenets of communism the same way I view Holocaust deniers. From the Bolsheviks of 1917 to the turmoil in Venezuela of 2017; Communism is as Churchill said; the equal sharing of misery. The pages of Solzhenitsyn’s Nobel Prize winning masterpiece are full of misery.

Solzhenitsyn paints a picture for the naïve westerner of the backbone and main pillar of Soviet Socialism: The gulag. The purpose of the network of gulags in the Soviet Union is to 1. Intimidate the mass
Sean Blake
Nov 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"They have tightly bound my body, but my soul is beyond their power."

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago is probably the greatest and most disturbing account of human rights violations and political oppression. Now I look around me and see other people stress over nothing, and am disgusted by their egotistical self-centeredness.
Amor Towles
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing


This summer, the Wall Street Journal asked me to pick five books I admired that were somehow reminiscent of A GENTLEMAN IN MOSCOW. To that end, I wrote on five works in which the action is confined to a small space, but in which the reader somehow experiences the world. Here is #3:

In 1945, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, an officer of the Russian army and recipient of the Order of the Red Star, was arrested for including criticisms of Stalin in his personal
aPriL does feral sometimes
I am surprised, no, shocked actually, at how perfectly constructed, researched and organized Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn's 'The Gulag Archipelago' is. He methodically describes the entire scheme developed in the Soviet Union from being arrested to examination and conviction in a legal court of judges to transportation to the awful Siberian prisons. Stalin perfected this legal political police state in order to legally murder or enslave millions of Russian citizens, but he only continued what other ...more
Michael Perkins
Dec 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
what Solzhenitsyn and Orwell knew.....

“Nothing makes with greater certainty the earth into a hell, than man’s wanting to make it his heaven.”

-Friedrich Hölderlin


new article: the author who brought down an empire...

a story from Solzhenitsyn's opus...

The audience exploded into applause. Every person in the room jumped up and began to wildly clap, as if racing each other to see who could get to their feet the fastest. The applause was all to honor
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An eye-opening book, the first one that showed me what gulags were...
May 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the most monumental accounts of one of the cruellest ideologies of history,this book should be read by all
Layer by layer Solzhenitsyn exposes the hideous system of imprisonment ,death and torture that he refers to as the 'Gulag Archipelago'
He strips away that the misconception of the good Tsar Lenin betrayed by his evil heirs and exposes how it was Lenin and his henchmen who put into place the brutal totalitarianism , which would be inherited and continued by Stalin
In fact the only thing
John Farebrother
What can be said about this book (or books, it comes in three volumes) that hasn't already been said? As well as the inside story of Stalin's prison camp system, it's practically the author's autobiography, he spent so long in there (eight years, for criticising Stalin in a letter to a friend while fighting in the battle of Berlin) or campaigning against the system as a result of his experiences. The vastness of his work reflects the scale of the prison system, through which I've heard say up to ...more
Dec 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The Gulag Archipelago was one of the most potent and touching books I have ever read. I laughed so I wouldn't cry. And on a roadway construction site at age 20, no less. I always list it any time someone asks for my favorite books, and it narrowly edges Homage to Catalonia for my favorite piece of non-fiction. It encompasses the absolute worst of human nature, the inconceivable tragedy of an intra-national genocide (for "security") on a greater scale than even the Holocaust, yet Solzhenitsyn is ...more
I was primarily drove to this book as a result of my interest in the Soviet Union and in the misfortunes of actual communism. But I think that the right way to see this book is through its spiritual insights. The experience in camp had a deep impact in Solzhenitsyn. I believe that nobody can pass for such experience and don't be affected in some way. The discussion of this topic, in particular, is done in the chapters 1 ("Ascent") and 2 ("Or Corruption?") from the part IV of the book ("The Soul ...more
Leo Robertson
Undeniable as an important historical text—now, do you need to read important historical texts? That depends: what's your PhD on?

As long as you know, like, The Soviet Union had a fuckton of labour camps. They treated workers/prisoners very poorly and tortured them in imaginative ways. Nobody even bothered to prosecute the bastards that did it, stating that it would be "digging up history." An incredible, unfathomably disgusting and cruel era in history. How many have to die to prove that communi
Gulag Archipelago by Alexander Solzhenitsyn is an important, powerful book. If you are interested in 20th Century history or interested in the future of humanity - this book is required reading. Although this book played a significant role in the dissolution of the Soviet Union, its primary importance is the message it proclaims to the present and to the future.

Its message transcends time and place: It reveals the weakness of human character and the strength of the human spirit. It demonstrate
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's been awhile since I read this one but I don't think I read an abridged version at the time. I just can't remember what version I did read. It had just been published in the US. Solzhenitsyn was a fantastic writer and he went through so much. I highly recommend this book and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. ...more
A chilling account of life in the Gulag. And one that should be read by everyone.
An emotional ride as Solzhenitsyn charts the history of the Gulags, then goes through a sequence of retelling his and others experiences in pre-arrest mode, initial arrest and interrogation, sentencing, travelling to the camp, the various camps, escapes and revolts, release and exile and a review of what was happening in the mid-60s. How anyone survived this mad world amazes me. The author was flabbergasted himself as to some of the ridiculous ways his country treated his countrymen. Frightening ...more
Dec 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
This will be a somewhat complex review because I am going to intertwine comments on Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago with the 20th anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

I'm reading The Gulag Archipelago right now and have just returned from a discussion of the dissolution of the Soviet Union conducted by five genuine experts: Former U.S. ambassadors and students of Soviet Affairs Tom Pickering, Mark Palmer and Arthur Hartman and veteran journalists Marvin Kalb and Ted Koppel.

Katya Mills
Dec 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Get a vivid picture of the work camp life in Siberia from a great author who was sent there and subjected to horrors most people could not survive. Solzhenitsyn's triumph over his bitter and cruel life circumstance gave him a second lease on life, as he made he way to New England and lived out the remainder of his life in respectable fashion, known the world over and cherished for his spirit and writings. The story and history of Russia and Russian literature cannot be whole without mentioning t ...more
Aug 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gulag Archipelago is not a book I think you can really read for pleasure. It's heavy, heavy stuff, and it is -- to the best of anyone's ability -- non-fiction. It contains a lot of stark truths about Russia -- Stalin's Russia, and after -- and the conditions in the camps. We know plenty about the camps in Germany, and yet even now, decades after this book was published, I knew little about this.

I could as easily shelve it as 'horror' as I could 'non-fiction' or 'history'.

Despite that, it's not u
Michael Perkins
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
new article: the author who brought down an empire...

I was in college when this work was published and dropped like a bomb on the playground of the Marxist fellow-travelers. Their naive utopia proved to be a path to a totalitarian state, labor camps, oppression and death. I have noticed since, that some of these naive folks have not seemed to have forgiven Solzhenitsyn for publishing the carefully documented truth and exposing their folly. But there you ha
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I can't really think of much to say about this book other than to encourage you to read it. It will open your eyes and then blow your mind.
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Goodreads Librari...: Correct format + cover photo 5 20 Jan 08, 2019 08:18AM  
Does anyone know where you can get the 3 unabridged volumes of Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago in EPUB format? 4 251 Mar 17, 2017 09:38PM  
Well Trained Mind...: #22 - The Gulag Archipelago 8 29 May 30, 2016 12:47PM  
The Transatlantic...: December's Read 2 10 Jan 02, 2014 12:31PM  
humor 1 24 Jun 08, 2013 07:03PM  

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Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn (Russian: Александр Иса́евич Солженицын) was a Soviet and Russian novelist, dramatist, and historian. Through his writings he helped to make the world aware of the Gulag, the Soviet Union's forced labor camp system—particularly The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, two of his best-known works.

Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in

Other books in the series

The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956 (4 books)
  • Fängelseindustrin (Gulag-arkipelagen, #1)
  • Evig rörelse (Gulag-arkipelagen, #2)
  • The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, Books III-IV
  • The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation, Books V-VII

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